Monday, September 29, 2008

Mr. Brown is Mr. Bad-For-You

(Picture source:

While in Taiwan, the Sarcastic Weasel is known to enjoy a Mr. Brown or two (or six). Mr. Brown being a locally produced, Japanese-style, cold coffee product in a can. "Enjoy" is a bit of a relative term here since Mr. Brown uses artificial dairy stuff instead of real milk for flavoring. But it has caffeine, it's dirt-cheap, it doesn't hurt my stomach, and it's available everywhere over there.

Apparently, it's not as local as I thought though. Certain Mr. Brown products are being recalled as part of the broader Chinese (People's Republic of) melamine/milk recall. So far, it is restricted to instant powder mixes, which the Sarcastic Weasel has not consumed. But am I foolish enough to believe that none of the imported fake-milk crap found its way into the canned coffee products consumed by yours truly? I can try, I suppose. It has been about a month since I drank any of the stuff, no ill effects yet. For now, I can just imagine what passing a Kidney stone might feel like.... Mmmph! Oh! OW! Sweet Jesus! UNHOLY @%$&ER OF MOTHERS!! [Uncontrollable sobbing]. OWWWwww!

Something to look forward to.

Official Info:
FDA Updates Health Information Advisory on Melamine Contamination
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is alerting consumers that
seven Mr. Brown instant coffee and milk tea products are being
recalled by the Taiwanese company, King Car Food Industrial Co. Ltd.,
due to possible contamination with melamine. King Car Food Industrial
Co. used a non-dairy creamer manufactured by Shandong Duqing Inc.,
China, which was found to be contaminated with melamine. The recalled
products are:

Mr. Brown Mandheling Blend Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
Mr. Brown Arabica Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
Mr. Brown Blue Mountain Blend Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
Mr. Brown Caramel Macchiato Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
Mr. Brown French Vanilla Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
Mr. Brown Mandhling Blend instant Coffee (2-in-1)
Mr. Brown Milk Tea (3-in-1)

The FDA recommends that consumers not consume any of the above Mr.
Brown instant coffee and milk tea products. The FDA also recommends
that retailers and foodservice operators remove the products from sale
or service.
As of September 25, 2008, the FDA testing of milk based products
imported into the United States from China has not found melamine
The FDA is working with regulatory agencies in other countries. The
New Zealand Food Safety Authority reports that its testing of White
Rabbit Creamy Candies has shown melamine contamination at high levels.
In light of the widespread contamination of milk and milk-based
products in China and the New Zealand Food Safety Authority's finding,
the FDA recommends that consumers not eat White Rabbit Creamy Candy
and that retailers and foodservice operations remove the product from
sale or service.
To date, the FDA is not aware of any illnesses in the United States
stemming from consumption of either White Rabbit Creamy Candy or the
Mr. Brown instant coffee and milk tea products.
Individuals who have experienced any health problems after consuming
either White Rabbit Creamy Candy or any of the identified Mr. Brown
coffee and tea products are advised to contact their health care


On September 12, 2008, in light of reports from China of melamine
contaminated infant formula, the FDA issued a Health Information
Advisory to assure the American public that there is no known threat
of contamination in infant formula manufactured by companies that have
met the requirements to sell such products in the United States. That
advisory also warned members of Chinese communities in the United
States that infant formula manufactured in China, possibly available
for purchase at Asian markets, could pose a risk to infants.
The FDA had contacted the companies who manufacture infant formula for
distribution in the United States and received, from the companies,
information that they are not importing formula or sourcing milk-based
materials from China.
At the same time, the FDA—in conjunction with state and local
officials—began a nation-wide investigation to check Asian markets for
Chinese manufactured infant formula that may have been brought into
the United States. In particular, this effort focused on areas of the
country with large Chinese communities, such as Los Angeles, San
Francisco, Seattle and New York. To date, investigators have visited
more than 1,400 retail markets and have not found Chinese infant
formula present on shelves in these markets.
The FDA also advises consumers not to purchase infant formula
manufactured in China from Internet sites or from other sources.
The FDA has taken, and will continue to take, proactive measures to
help ensure the safety of the American food supply. In conjunction
with state and local officials, the FDA will continue to check Asian
markets for food items that are imported from China and that could
contain a significant amount of milk or milk proteins. In addition,
the FDA has broadened its domestic and import sampling and testing of
milk-derived ingredients and finished food products containing milk,
such as candies, desserts, and beverages that could contain these
ingredients from Chinese sources. Milk-derived ingredients include
whole milk powder, non-fat milk powder, whey powder, lactose powder,
and casein.
In addition to state and local governments, the FDA is working in
close cooperation with Customs and Border Protection within the U.S.
Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Agriculture,
other federal agencies, and foreign governments.

Additional Information

QFCO, Inc. Recalls White Rabbit Candy Because of Possible Health Risk
(Sept. 26, 2008)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I feel so happy...

This really speaks for itself.

Awesomeness made flesh.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Traveling Again

Very few posts lately.

The Sarcastic Weasel will be traveling for research related purposes again shortly and preparations for the next trip (as well as fallout from the previous trip) consume his time.

This time, the destination is not in Asia (thank the god of jet lag), but Germany. I suppose I'm going to be spending the bulk of my time working on my research rather than getting to do distinctively German things like drinking warm beer and invading Poland.

This trip is largely devoted to burnishing the Sarcastic Weasel's environmental research street cred. The most important part of being "green" is, apparently, flying on a jet very long distances (seems to work for Al Gore).

In the meantime, please amuse yourself by providing additional pseudonyms for the forthcoming Sarcastic Weasel sequel. There are certainly some quality submissions, but a few more suggestions would really help round out a nice looking poll.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Public School Spending

A recent action/stunt (depending on your p.o.v.) in the form of a student "strike" took place in the greater Chicago area, attempting to highlight the vast disparity between spending levels, per pupil, in rich versus poor districts. A number of students from a poor urban school were bussed to a wealthy suburban district where they attempted to enroll so that they too might be able to take advantage of that school's "four orchestras, a rowing club, a course in "kinetic wellness," and AP classes in French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Latin, and Chinese" (quote and links from Slatle).

A summary article from the Chicago Tribune can be found here.

While it is amazing that the equal protection clause of the constitution does not seem to apply when it comes to funding our public schools, one other fact leaped out at me too as I read the story (from Chicago Tribune article linked above):

At issue is how much money schools spend per student. In a funding system fueled largely by local property taxes, New Trier Township spent nearly $17,000 per student in 2005-06 and Sunset Ridge spent about $16,000, while Chicago Public Schools spent an estimated $10,400 per pupil.

The vast discrepancy comes from the coupled facts that, in the U.S., local public schools are funded largely through local property taxes and that we tend to live segregated by class (as well as race, ideology, and accent... wait, might be mixing some cause and effect here... oh well). That's not the fact that caught my eye, it was the $10,400 per pupil that the under served students were "striking" about that caught my eye.

In Michigan, local property taxes have been de-emphasized in school funding in order reduce this disparity, and the bulk of school funding comes from the state now and has been for over a decade now. But in order to get parents living more prosperous areas to sign on to the change, the state had to promise to keep some of the disparity intact and fund traditionally richer districts at higher levels than traditionally poorer districts.

Just for fun, I checked the 2008-2009 funding level of the rural school that the Sarcastic Weasel attended: $7316 per pupil.

It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Bad NFL Reporting

Another story about how a team with a lot of question marks hanging over it at the beginning of the season has dispelled a lot of doubts by embarrassing an opponent in the season opener:

The problem is, of course, the opponent was the hapless Official NFL Team of the Sarcastic Weasel, more commonly known as the Detroit Lions. No achievement, no matter how seemingly impressive or record breaking, counts when it is achieved at the expense of the Detroit Lions. They are, simply put, the worst, most pathetic excuse for a professional sports franchise in modern sporting history (I'm hedging with "modern history" since there may have been some kind of Roman Gladiatorial team that got massacred on a regular basis more frequently than the Lions... but I suspect that the only contestants in Rome's Coliseum to fare as poorly as Detroit's NFL franchise were actual lions).

The Sarcastic Weasel, knowing in advance what the outcome would be, owing to an advanced technique known to its practitioners as "guessing", did not watch the game, nor will he be watching any Lion's games this year (employed the same technique to correctly predict that the sun would appear to rise in the East this morning too). He has stated for years that the fools that buy tickets to Lions' games are simply rewarding the NFL for allowing such a poor and predictable entertainment product to waddle desultorily onto the field every year. It's very difficult to reward/punish any individual team in the NFL by your economic behavior due to the League's revenue sharing practices, so the NFL as a whole are the only ones who might be brought to bear through any kind if Lions boycott. As a non-ticket/merchandise buyer, the best I can contribute to such a cause would be to avoid watching the games on TV. Truly, in such a manner, I am confident that I will become an instrument of positive change (HA!).

There is something to be said for being a loyal fan, sticking up for you team in fair or foul weather. But there's something about this level of professional incompetence, continuing unabated for so long that, to me, is unacceptable and, dare I say it, un-American (now is not the time to bring up Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Countrywide... the American banking sector in general... hedge funds, people with MBAs being put in charge of anything... I'm on a roll talking about football and bringing real reality into the conversation will just ruin it... damn).

So this year, as usual, I will be looking for a secondary team to follow. Due to geography and, my own stupidity, I will probably always be a Lions fan... so much as it is possible to be a fan of such a sad assortment of pathetic, undisciplined failures. But, to keep some level of interest in the NFL season, I have to choose a secondary team to root for, one whose fate does not seem so indelibly preordained. I know a lot of Lions fans that do the same thing, though they often have permanent secondary teams whereas I choose a new one each year. This year though, I just can't seem to choose one. I'm dangerously close to a confluence of emotional and intellectual realizations. Intellectually I've known, seemingly forever, that professional football is nothing more than an entertainment product produced by different branches of the same corporate entity that employ grown men to put on silly costumes and roll around on each other (a statement that, with minor modifications, can be applied to any spectator sport). But, emotionally, I've been willing to set that aside and believe in various fantasies relating to civic pride and redefining the bounds of human accomplishment. As Ish has said in the past, there is considerable enjoyment, even spiritual humanist enrichment to be garnered from "watching people who are the best at what they do accomplish amazing things" (well, I gussied it up a little, but it's essentially what he meant... I think... he'll correct me if I'm wrong). It's becoming difficult to continue to indulge in that emotional fantasy where the NFL is concerned though, when you own team, year after year, demonstrates that uncompromising ineptitude and incompetence are also perfectly acceptable in their realm as well.

Other Lions fans, how are you holding up?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Help Name the Official Kid of the Sarcastic Weasel

...not in reality, but for the blog.

As "Official Kid of the Sarcastic Weasel" is a pain to type a lot, I need something shorter to refer to him/her/it in posts and comments in the future. And with good fortune, there will be many future opportunities to post comments, as child fabrication progresses.

Submit your ideas in the comments section of this post. Submit as many time as you wish. The Sarcastic Weasel reserves the right to counter-suggest potential names for people posting particularly unflattering suggestions.

The suggestions that I like will be rounded up into a poll for voting so that, at a leter date, I can ignore the votes and pick the one I like best (it's kind of like democracy!).

Ready... and... GO!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Latest Version of iTunes

I made the mistake of falling for the iTunes "upgrade" dialog box when it popped up yesterday. Not only did the sucker monopolize my system resources for 5 minutes then demand a reboot, it came with some little unnanounced piece of crap software called Bonjour.

There are three things that Apple needs to pay attention to here:
  • iTunes is generally awful as a music player. The options it has and the options that I want are nearly completely disjoint sets. Anything that they do that makes keeping it seem more awful than replacing it should, really, be avoided.
  • Slipping in little trojan programs that are difficult to remove, like to eat up processor time, and make unsupervised connections to remote IP hosts, makes Apple seem less like a mainstream software company and more like a warez site. Don't give me crap that even looks like a virus.
  • Anything with a french name = evil... and not the good evil... the evil evil.